Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
TDs now have to come to terms with butchering of Galway EastJune 27, 2012 - 11:37am
They feared it and yet they didn’t think it would really happen. There was speculation in the media about it and yet the thought of the Galway East constituency being butchered in such a manner was inconceivable for many of the sitting TDs.
A week after the Constituencies Commission announced the changes to the electoral boundaries, the main political parties are still trying to get their heads around what has happened while strategists are working overtime to map out what should be done in advance of the next general election in 2016.
Not much has changed in Galway West. The constituency has benefited from an additional 10,000 odd population from South Mayo to confirm it as a five seat constituency while Mayo itself has now been reduced to a four-seater.
But the biggest, and most controversial, change has occurred in Galway East with a swathe of the constituency stretching from Clontuskert near Ballinasloe all the way across to Dunmore now being included as part of a new Galway-Roscommon constituency which has left many constituents in this area both reeling and very dismayed.
The change has robbed Fine Gael TD Paul Connaughton jnr. of around 2,400 first preferences of the 7,255 he received in the general election last year while Deputy Micheal Kitt of Fianna Fail is down around 2,200 from the 6,585 he secured in 2011. Kitt’s Castleblakeney home is now in Galway-Roscommon as the same is true of Connaughton’s home place in Ballinlass, Mountbellew. They face difficult decisions over the next couple of years.
The carve up of the constituency may influence Micheal Kitt’s decision to retire from politics come the next general election in four years time but as far as young Connaughton is concerned, he has already declared that he will be a candidate although he has not decided which constituency he will be running in.
While Fine Gael initiated the reduction of eight TDs in the Dail it has presented the party with something of a dilemma when it comes to the overall situation in Galway East and Roscommon.
Currently they have two TDs in Galway East, Connaughton and Junior Minister Ciaran Cannon and also elected two in Roscommon-South Leitrim, Frankie Feighan in the north of the constituency and Denis Naughten in the south.
The downgrading of Roscommon Hospital resulted in Naughten jumping ship and is unlikely to return in advance of the next general election. Feighan received around 40% of his first preference vote in South Leitrim and that has now been swept from his grasp in the redrawing of the boundaries. The fact that he didn’t follow Naughten over the Roscommon Hospital issue is also likely to come back to haunt him.
Fine Gael are looking at a situation of possibly having no TD in Galway-Roscommon next time out and that is why they are now anxious that Paul Connaughton might consider taking his 2,400 first preferences and building on it with the 13,500 votes which were cast in this part of Galway East last time out. He would also benefit from a much weakened Frank Feighan transfer, although some of this would also go to Naughten as well.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.